Rosemary Oil

The increased demand for pharmaceutical and cosmetic products made of natural ingredients has brought researchers to focus their attention on essential oils. Essential oils are volatile, organic compounds produced by plants as secondary metabolites

Essential oils are traditionally used as fragrances in food and cosmetics but, in the past few decades, many studies have highlighted their numerous biological and medicinal properties. One such beneficial essential oil is Rosemary oil.1,2

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is an evergreen shrub with needle-like leaves and a woody aroma. Though more popular as a spice and flavouring agent, it is one of the most used aromatic and medicinal plants worldwide. Rosemary leaves possess a variety of biological activities, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, fungicidal, and anticancer activity. The medicinal properties are mainly due to its flavonoids and terpenes content.1,3,4,5

Antiviral Activity

Rosemary extract has shown antiviral activity against Herpes simplex virus (HSV), the virus responsible for cold sores.1

In-vitro studies demonstrate that rosemary extract exhibit antiviral activity against HSV-1 and HSV-2, along with antioxidant effects. Rosemary extract was evaluated by an HSV-1 antiviral assay, in which viral replication in Vero cells was determined. The study showed that rosemary extract at 30 µg/ml caused 55% inhibition of HSV-1 plaques, whereas 40 µg/ml rosemary extract caused 65% inhibition of HSV-2 plaques. The extracts completely inhibited HSV-1 and HSV-2 plaque formation at 50 µg/ml. Scavenging activities of the superoxide anion radical was also observed. 1

Rosemary oil also possesses antibacterial effects. Antibacterial effects of rosemary oil are linked to their polyphenolic composition. Rosemary oil may also be used in drug-resistant infections.6,7,8

Skin is particularly vulnerable to free radical damage as it is in constant contact with oxygen and other environmental stimuli. Compounds that can potentially contribute to endogenous modulation of antioxidant defences can help protect the skin.9

Carnosol is a naturally occurring phytopolyphenol found in rosemary. Carnosol functions as antioxidant.10

A study by Calabrese et al, evaluated the effectiveness of a natural extract derived from rosemary to protect free radical-induced skin damage. The study found that an alcoholic extract of rosemary leaves, Rosm1, is endowed with strong antioxidant activity and, as evaluated by both in vitro and in vivo systems, is capable of inhibiting oxidative alterations to skin surface lipids. Investigations pointed out the antioxidant activity of this extract and its ability to control lipoperoxidation of skin lipids. Rosemary may thus be useful for the prevention and treatment of skin disorders, including age-related skin damages.9

  1. Al-Megrin WA, AlSadhan NA, Metwally DM, Al-Talhi RA, El-Khadragy MF, Abdel-Hafez LJM. Potential antiviral agents of Rosmarinus officinalis extract against herpes viruses 1 and 2. Biosci Rep. 2020;40(6):BSR20200992.
  2. Montenegro L, Pasquinucci L, Zappalà A, Chiechio S, Turnaturi R, Parenti C. Rosemary Essential Oil-Loaded Lipid Nanoparticles: In Vivo Topical Activity from Gel Vehicles. Pharmaceutics. 2017;9(4):48.
  3. Adorjan B., Buchbauer G. Biological properties of essential oils: An updated review.  Fragr. J. 2010;25:407–426.
  4. Bakkali F., Averbeck S., Averbeck D., Idaomar M. Biological effects of essential oils—A review. Food Chem. Toxicol. 2008;46:446–475.
  5. Anthony K.P., Deolu-Sobogun S.A., Saleh M.A. Comprehensive assessment of antioxidant activity of essential oils.  Food Sci. 2012;77:C839–C843. 
  6. Fu Y., Zu Y., Chen L., Efferth T., Liang H., Liu Z. et al. . (2007) Investigation of antibacterial activity of rosemary essential oil against Propionibacterium acnes with atomic force microscopy. Planta Med. 73, 1275–1280.
  7. Moreno S., Scheyer T., Romano C.S. and Vojnov A.A. (2006) Antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of rosemary extracts linked to their polyphenol composition. Free Radic. Res. 40, 223–231.
  8. Sacco C., Bellumori M., Santomauro F., Donato R., Capei R., Innocenti M. et al. . (2015) An in vitro evaluation of the antibacterial activity of the non-volatile phenolic fraction from rosemary leaves. Nat. Prod. Res. 29, 1537–1544.
  9. Calabrese V, Scapagnini G, Catalano C, Dinotta F, Geraci D, Morganti P. Biochemical studies of a natural antioxidant isolated from rosemary and its application in cosmetic dermatology. Int J Tissue React. 2000;22(1):5-13.
  10. Lo AH, Liang YC, Lin-Shiau SY, et al. Carnosol, an antioxidant in rosemary, suppresses inducible nitric oxide synthase through down-regulating nuclear factor-kappaB in mouse macrophages. Carcinogenesis. 2002;23(6):983-991.
  11. Nogueira de Melo GA, Grespan R, Fonseca JP, et al. Rosmarinus officinalis L. essential oil inhibits in vivo and in vitro leukocyte migration. J Med Food. 2011;14(9):944-946.
  12. Mengoni ES, Vichera G, Rigano LA, et al. Suppression of COX-2, IL-1β and TNF-α expression and leukocyte infiltration in inflamed skin by bioactive compounds from Rosmarinus officinalis L. Fitoterapia. 2011;82(3):414-421.
  13. Benincá JP, Dalmarco JB, Pizzolatti MG, et al. Analysis of the anti-inflammatory properties of Rosmarinus officinalis L. in mice. Food Chemistry. 2011;124: 468-475.
  14. Raskovic A, Milanovic I, Pavlovic N, et al. Analgesic effects of rosemary essential oil and its interactions with codeine and paracetamol in mice. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2015;19(1):165-172.

Rosemary oil has also demonstrated anti-inflammatory actions. Anti-inflammatory activity is mainly due to its components carnosol and carnosic acid.11,12

Rosemary essential oil and extract were found to significantly inhibit leukocyte migration, which, in turn, reduced the number of leukocytes or white blood cells at the site of inflammation, resulting in an anti-inflammatory response. Rosemary extract also inhibited other pro-inflammatory substances, such as nitric oxide and genes involved in the inflammatory cascade.11,12,13

In traditional medicine, rosemary was utilized as a mild pain reliever (analgesic) for relieving kidney stone pain (renal colic pain) and painful menstrual periods (dysmenorrhea).14

A mice study determined the analgesic effects of rosemary essential oil and its pharmacodynamic interactions with codeine and paracetamol, a common over-the-counter analgesic. The analgesic effects were measured using the hot plate test. The mouse hot plate analgesia assay is a test of painful stimulation from heat sensitivity, in which the mice are placed on the hot plate and their response to the thermal stimulus measured.14

The study results showed that rosemary oil significantly increased the latency time of animal response to heat-induced pain when compared to saline-treated group. Rosemary essential oil in the dose of 20 mg/kg was shown to be more efficient than in the dose of 10 mg/kg, in combinations with both codeine and paracetamol. The findings suggested the therapeutic potential of rosemary essential oil in combination with analgesic drugs.14

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